Sulfur pollution coming from the ships is by no means an insignificant source of air pollution. Fuels rich with sulfur can cause significant environmental damage in form of air pollution and can also have negative impact on human health.
Sulfur dioxide emissions coming from ships that use fuels with higher sulfur content contribute significantly to acid rain formation, and also degrade the overall quality of air in nearby area.
The newest regulations by the International Maritime Organization require vessels to switch to lower-sulfur fuel near U.S. and international coasts beginning in 2012. According to the latest scientific study published online in Environmental Science & Technology this regulation will significantly reduce the level of sulfur dioxide emissions, and even reduce particulate matter pollution and black carbon pollution.
By studying the container ship operating under a 2009 California regulation requiring that ships switch to low-sulfur fuels the scientists concluded that this switch could reduce sulfur and particulate matter pollution level to more than 90%, and black carbon levels to more than 40%.
According to the 2009 data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency the switch to low-sulfur fuels near costs could save more than 8,300 lives per year in United States and Canada, and also help ease the symptoms for more than 3 million people who suffer from respiratory diseases.
The new international and federal regulations could therefore have not only positive environmental but also positive health impact, and save thousands of human lives by significantly reducing the amount of several health-damaging pollutants in air.
This project was funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the California Air Resources Board. California is the U.S. state worst affected with air pollution.
The results of this study, together with the incoming international regulations, could account for a cleaner and healthier air to the people that live near shipping lanes and next to ports.